By Chris Kieffer
MOOREVILLE – A traveling exhibit from the University of Mississippi hopes to inspire more young scientists in the Magnolia State.
The portable planetarium from the university’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education visited Mooreville Middle School on Friday. Eighth-graders entered the inflatable black dome to see digital projections of the sun, moon, solar system and galaxies and to track the path of celestial bodies.
“We need people like y’all to get interested in learning stuff like this and go into STEM fields,” Bethany LaValley, a graduate research fellow at the CMSE, told the students.
STEM is an abbreviation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and there is a great demand to improve STEM education in both the state and the nation.
Brining the planetarium to various schools, LaValley said, gives rural students an experience they often would have to travel to gain.
“We want to foster STEM learning and give them an introduction to what is available if they follow STEM,” she said.
Friday’s visit concluded “Astronomy Week” for the students, as eighth-grade science teacher Peggy Hussey led four lessons provided by the CMSE to prepare the students for their time in the planetarium.
“I hope it gives them a spark and lets them know everything they are learning is important, and they will use everything they learn in eighth-grade science,” she said.
Student Andrew Peugh said the 45-minute lesson inside the planetarium helped students better understand “how it really is.” He also said it was amazing to realize how small the Earth is in the context of all known galaxies.
“It makes you more interested,” said classmate Jacob Hughes. “You see things in a different way.”